Top five Kinect hacks

Innovative hackers have turned Microsoft’s Kinect into a useful tool, medical life-saver, and a form of art.

Here are five of the best Kinect hacks from around the world.

Kinect-assisted surgery

Who wants to use a keyboard and mouse in the operating theatre? Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, North Carolina, use a stack of CT scans as detailed 3D visualisations that can aid surgery.

Now, with Kinect, they can do it hands-free, using gestures to move through the 3D image.

Researchers in Switzerland have found a more gruesome use for Kinect, controlling virtual autopsies (or virtopsies) using 3D virtualisations of an MRI-scanned corpse.

Kinect surgery

The disintegrating man

Kinect Disintegrating ManVictor Martins is one of the most interesting Kinect artists at work, using the controller to create a trail of clones or manipulate sheets of cloth, fur or skin-like textures with his digitised 3D form.

Martins’ pièce de résistance, however, is (hmm) Disintegrates, in which a 3D capture of his body is transformed into a million particles that fall away and scatter before the viewer’s eyes.

It’s a spectacular demo, showing how a £129 sensor and some coding nous can create results that used to be the preserve of digital effects studios.

Real-time motion capture

Kinect Motion CaptureMotion-captured CGI animation commands a Hollywood budget, right? Not anymore. Hacker James Walsh took Kinect and the OpenKinect drivers and found a way to make it work with DAZ Studio, a free 3D figure design and animation package.

Beginning with coloured balls mapped to the joints of the human skeleton, Walsh soon moved on to cartoon characters and lip-synched human figures composited in real environments.

We’re still a long way from The Polar Express but, considering the modest costs involved, it’s an impressive feat.

V-Sido humanoid robot

Kinect V SidoThere are plenty of examples of robots being controlled by natural user interfaces, some of which are capable of picking up objects or using the Kinect’s depth sensor to navigate in 3D space.

Our favourite is Wataru Yoshizaki’s demonstration of a humanoid robot controlled by Kinect.

Using Asura Engineering’s V-Sido real-time robot control software, the humanoid robot uses Kinect data to capture a skeletal map from the human controller, mimicking every movement, pose and gesture, while maintaining its balance.

Da Vinci Physics Illustrator

Kinect DaVinci Originally designed for Microsoft’s Surface table-top computers, Razorfish’s port of its Da Vinci Physics Illustrator is one of the most stunning examples of how we might interact with computers in the future.

It enables the user to draw 2D virtual objects with simulated real-world physics, so that effects such as gravity, magnetism and planetary attraction can all be demonstrated in real-time. With Kinect, objects can be drawn by hand movements, then grabbed and dragged across the screen by closing and opening the fist.

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